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PerkinElmer Builds on Acquisitions with Launch of Cell-Based Assay Service

This story originally appeared in Biocommerce Week, a newsletter that has been discontinued.
 
After starting off the year with a few acquisitions that significantly expanded its portfolio of cell-analysis instruments and reagents, PerkinElmer last week launched a new assay development service to complement these products.
 
The firm had already been developing cell-based assays in house, and this capability was enhanced by its acquisition of Euroscreen Products earlier this year (see BioCommerce Week 1/3/2007). While it is competing in the assay-development market against firms such as Invitrogen, Cisbio, and DiscoverX, a PerkinElmer official said this week that the firm is not providing screening services.
 
The new service will use a mix of legacy PerkinElmer products as well as those from Euroscreen with a focus on cell-based assays for G-protein coupled receptors and kinases.
 
The service is based on the company’s proprietary AlphaScreen, DELFIA, and LANCE technologies, as well the AequoScreen platform that PerkinElmer acquired from Euroscreen. It also will provide miniaturization of ELISA assays using PerkinElmer’s proprietary AlphaLISA platform. 
 
“Several large pharmaceutical drug discovery organizations as well as smaller biotechs have requested our assistance in utilizing our combined experience with liquid handling, detection instruments, and assays to assist them in assay development,” Richard Eglen, vice president and general manager of discovery and research reagents for PerkinElmer’s Life and Analytical Sciences unit, told BioCommerce Week via e-mail this week.
 
PerkinElmer has moved the manufacturing of its cell lines to one of its two facilities in Montreal, Canada, he told BioCommerce Week sister publication Cell-Based Assay News last week.
 
The firm plans to do most of its GPCR assay development at Euroscreen’s facility in Gosselies, Belgium, which employs 20 people. In addition, one of PerkinElmer’s Montreal R&D facilities has been developing GPCR assays for the LANCE Ultra and AlphaLISA platforms and will continue to do so.
 
“Our assay development plans at present cover the assay technologies at PerkinElmer,” said Eglen. “As we expand these assay technologies, we anticipate that we will add to the services we offer. In terms of drug discovery targets, at present we view our focus as GPCRs, kinases, and biomarker detection.”
 
When PerkinElmer acquired Euroscreen, it acquired not just Euroscreen’s aequorin technology, but also a group with expertise in cell-line assay development, particularly in the area of GPCRs.
 
Euroscreen specializes in GPCR assays based on the aequorin calcium-sensitive luminescent photoprotein. It markets the assays under the AequoScreen name and sells cell lines and membranes expressing GPCRs and aequorin, and provides assay protocols for these technologies.
 
GPCRs are one of the most investigated and exploited drug target families. PerkinElmer believes that GPCR targets comprise between 30 and 40 percent of drug screening programs. Some industry reports have estimated that GPCRs are targets for more than 50 percent of all currently marketed pharmaceuticals.
 
Sizing up the Market
 
Eglen declined to comment on the potential size of the market for developing cell-based assays. But the market has become more crowded over the past couple of years as more pharmaceutical firms have adopted cell-based research in their drug-development programs.
 
One of PerkinElmer’s primary competitors in the assay development market is Invitrogen, which purchased Sentigen Holding last year for roughly $26 million (see BioCommerce Week 9/6/2006). Invitrogen had already been developing kinase assays, but the Sentigen acquisition provided the firm with entry into the GPCR target market.
 
Invitrogen officials also previously declined to provide a market estimate.
 

“As we expand these assay technologies, we anticipate that we will add to the services we offer. In terms of drug discovery targets, at present we view our focus as GPCRs, kinases, and biomarker detection.”

Other firms competing in the cell-based assay development market include Cisbio and DiscoverX, whose assay products are distributed worldwide by GE Healthcare. PerkinElmer’s Eglen joined the firm a little over a year ago from DiscoveRx.
 
Unlike other firms, such as Millipore and Caliper Life Sciences, PerkinElmer does not intend to provide screening services.
 
With the possibility of other large firms entering the GPCR assay or screening services market, PerkinElmer is stressing its broad portfolio of instruments and reagents.
 
“PerkinElmer now has a very wide and deep portfolio of assays for biochemical and cell-based [high-throughout screening],” said Eglen. “This, in addition to strong scientific expertise in the GPCR, kinase, and biomarker detection areas and broad instrument knowledge, allows us to bring these technologies and expertise to the customer, resulting in rapid development of assays and validation for their screening needs.”
 
Eglen also said that the new service is not expected to cut into the firm’s sales of cell-analysis instruments. “We view this service as completely complementary to our instrument offerings and we will in fact be developing many of the assays using PerkinElmer instrument technology,” he said.
 
The assay-development service is the latest effort by PerkinElmer to expand its presence in the cell-analysis and -research market. In addition to the Euroscreen acquisition, PerkinElmer acquired Evotec Technologies in January for $30.5 million (see BioCommerce Week 12/6/2006) and cell-imaging software maker Improvision in April (see BioCommerce Week 4/4/2007).
 
Charlotte LoBuono contributed to this article.

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